As Mother’s Day approaches I have been thinking about what an encourager my sweet mother, Lorraine was to me. From the time I was a small boy she told me that God had great things planned for me and she supported me, sacrificed for me and every day encouraged me in an attempt to bring out the best in me. Webster’s defines encouragement as the “the act of inspiring others with renewed courage, renewed spirit or renewed hope.” As a Godly leader an all important trait is our ability to bring out the best in other people.
The encouraging leader adds value to groups and individuals through communicating belief in them and providing resources to help them achieve better results. People want to be part of something bigger than themselves. People believe they are valued and fulfilled when they feel encouraged to be part of a worthwhile journey. A person gets a feeling of acceptance by belonging to something they value and are acknowledged for their daily contributions. When encouraging leaders help individuals feel more valuable, capable, and motivated, we see their lives change for the better as they move closer to the potential God is calling them toward.
A Biblical example of this kind of encouraging leadership is Naomi. The story of Naomi appears in the Old Testament book of Ruth. Naomi’s life illustrates the power of God to bring good out of what were bitter circumstances.
After a famine hits Judea, Naomi and her family move to the country of Moab, a good 10 day journey of about 60 miles. In time, Naomi loses her husband and two sons leaving Naomi and her two daughters in law, widows and alone. The key word here is “alone”. Naomi was left utterly without any support in her community. She would receive no inheritance, her husband’s property would go to his male relatives. She would have no support network to provide for her and no children or grandchildren to look after her in old age. She would be utterly destitute and without any prospect of redeeming the situation.
Hearing that the famine in Judea was over, Naomi decides to return home. One daughter in law, Orpah decides to stay in Moab with her family, Ruth chooses to move to the land of Israel with Naomi. She says to Naomi, “Wherever you go, I will go; wherever you live, I will live. Your people will be my people, and your God will be my God.” Ruth 1:16 The book of Ruth is the story of Naomi and Ruth returning to Bethlehem and how Ruth, encouraged by Naomi is able to prosper.
The name Naomi means sweet, and pleasant, which gives us an idea of Naomi’s basic character, but her heartache in Moab was more than Naomi could bear. When she and Ruth arrive in Bethlehem, the women of the town greet Naomi by name, but she cries, “Don’t call me Naomi, call me Mara.” The name Mara means “bitter.” Even while fighting a season of bitterness in her own heart, Naomi found a way to encourage the dream of her daughter in law.
Godly leadership recognizes the spark that God has placed in each of us and works to see that spark ignite in the lives of those around. Naomi could have remained a bitter widow with no concern for others, but she saw in Ruth a chance for her family to continue. She encouraged Ruth to create a legacy that Naomi could never do. Ruth meets a local landowner, Boaz, who is exceedingly kind to her. Naomi again recognizes the providence of God in providing a potential husband and provider for Ruth, so she coached Ruth on how to make herself known to Boaz. Ruth marries Boaz and Naomi gains a son-in-law who would provide for both her and Ruth. Naomi was no longer Mara. Because of her encouragement to Ruth, her life again became sweet and pleasant, blessed by God.
Follow the example of Naomi and my mother Sweet Lorraine, and look for ways to daily encourage those around you. You may your find that it helps you to become sweeter and more pleasant in the eyes of those around you.